- Social news outlet NowThis has employees sign a non-compete agreement that bars them from working for the competition for two years after leaving the company, BuzzFeed reports. The agreement, an industry employment restriction usually reserved for on-air talent and executives, also applies to entry-level staff. NowThis belongs to the Group Nine Media digital family.
- BuzzFeed says non-compete agreements are standard in other industries, as well as the media's. Group Nine spokesperson Devon Giddon said in a statement that companies have non-compete agreements because of the time, training and money they invest in all their workers.
- Not all of such agreements are fully enforced. But as seen in BuzzFeed's report, it's not uncommon anymore for companies in various industries to have their lower-level employees sign non-compete agreements.
Media on-air talent and high-level executives frequently transfer from one media outlet to another to get into bigger markets offering more money and greater visibility. The frequent transfers might have made non-compete agreements seem necessary to protect employers' proprietary information — but the move to having entry-level employees sign such agreements is, in the long term, bad for employees.
By restricting employment opportunities, non-compete agreements can set back lower-level workers' careers for the long term, especially in industries like the media that have a lot of horizontal movement. However, states are challenging agreements. Illinois already bars employers from forcing agreements on low-wage earners, and New York's attorney general plans to introduce restrictive legislation this year.
Employers might want to review their non-compete agreements, if they offer them, to avoid having them challenged in court. But beyond that, employers should recognize that employees will likely one day leave no matter what they do. That's why companies should focus on developing employees and giving them a good employee experience to ensure productivity and a good employer brand that makes others willing to work for you.